The Mingus boys' basketball team won against Sedona, 63-54, Thursday night in Cottonwood.
After the Sedona game, Owens praised Alex Brewer’s on-the-ball defense. “He loves a one-on-one defensive challenge. I think since he’s a defensive back in football, he’s comfortable being on an island and taking personal responsibility for shutting his guy down,” said Owens.
Mingus won the game against Sedona Thursday by nine points, but the Marauders led by 25 when Owens pulled his starters.
COTTONWOOD – Mark Owens improved the Marauders’ win total by 230 percent in his first year as head coach of the Mingus HS boys’ basketball team.
With an overall record of 10-16 and a power-point record of 7-11, the team still finished under .500, but with seven more wins than last season.
Mingus boys basketball has been down for a while, but this year they got a lot better. What does Owens brings to the table? A lot, but most evidently structure.
Mingus assistant coach Albert Rodriguez suited up for the Marauders when they were good almost a decade ago. He decided to get more involved in coaching the Marauders this year.
“I wanted to help bring back a winning spirit to Mingus basketball. It’s been a while since we had success, as everybody knows, and I just wanted to give these guys encouragement and let them know this community is capable of putting out quality basketball players and quality basketball teams,” said Rodriguez. “My first impression of coach Owens was structure. My first day here I saw players bouncing around from drill to drill, working hard in practice, and that was great to see. Even back in the successful days, that wasn’t always present. We’ve always had quality athletes, but with structure there is no limit to where basketball can go in this community. That was my impression from day one.”
With harder practices, the Mingus players improved. Seniors Evan McFarland and Sergio Romero benefited immensely.
“I started out really slow,” said Romero. “Coach started giving me confidence, and I picked it up. I started playing so much better than before. I got more minutes by showing it in practice, and once I was in the game I took care of the rock.”
Romero also played for the team last season.
“Mingus basketball should have gained some respect this season. I mean, we tripled our win total from last season. This team is going to be so good next year. I wish I could play one more season with these guys,” said Romero.
McFarland feels the same way. His game evolved a lot this season. He went from being a slasher to a rebounding post player with an accurate jump hook.
“I feel extremely fortunate to have been coached by Mark Owens my senior year. He’s turned this program around. Three wins to 10 wins in just one season,” said McFarland. “We’ve learned so much as a team. Our basketball knowledge expanded.”
After Mingus beat Sedona by nine in Cottonwood Thursday, Owens said McFarland improved the most out of any player on his team.
“Once our coaching staff figured out how to use McFarland, his game took off. He’s an undersized guy, but with supreme athleticism. We were able to exploit some centers we played because he’s so quick and athletic. His game has evolved so much he’s like a guard playing center, and he did a great job of using that to his advantage on the offensive end, but still effectively guarding taller players on the defensive end,” said Owens.
The way McFarland and Alex Brewer played this season is how Owens wants his undersized front court players to produce. They grinded for rebounds and made nice plays around the basket. McFarland’s jump hook turned high percentage by season’s end, and Brewer’s contorting body control makes him elusive around the basket.
Brewer is part of a talented class coming back next year as seniors, including Rashonn Montgomery, Clancy Odegard, Francisco Romero, and Sam Johnson. Those players got a lot of minutes this season, and that experience should carry over to next season.
Point guard Rashonn Montgomery evolved to more of a floor general in his first year of organized ball. His gift to score in the clutch isn’t something you can teach, but he got better at distributing the basketball and picking his spots. As the team around him grew stronger, the decision to pass became more favorable for the squad, and Montgomery looked good at the scoring and distributing helm of the ship.
Odegard gained consistency and confidence as the sixth man. Even though he didn’t start, he still got minutes comparable to a starter. Odegard can score in a lot of ways, and in his senior year he’ll be a top scorer.
Francisco Romero played solid coming off the bench for the Marauders. He’ll likely start next season and produce big numbers rebounding.
The Mingus freshman and JV teams both posted winning records this season, adding to the excitement for next year.
Everyone who aspires to play for coach Owens knows the standard they have to live up to, on and off the court.
“From the very first open gym in June, we talked about carrying ourselves in the right way. It’s a confident, but humble swagger. It’s being professional, businesslike, holding each other accountable, and doing well in the classroom. That’s what we want to instill in these young men,” said Owens. “You can see some of the benefits of running a disciplined, high-accountability program. I think the kids have done a great job carrying themselves as young men, while also becoming better student athletes.”
Top Mingus performers against Sedona
Alex Brewer: 16 points, 5 steals, 5 rebounds
Sergio Romero: 13 points (season high)
Francisco Romero: 6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals